I Review an Obscure Book Called the Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon, #2)The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After being in print for seven years and selling 80 million copies, The Da Vinci code’s reputation won’t be changed one iota by my review. Will that stop me from writing a review? Of course not!

First, it’s a great premise. You’ve got one sekrit society out to get another sekrit society, and they’re sekritly fighting over some explosive sekrit that would change history. And, it’s the Catholic Church and all, which has kinda sorta had a big impact in the western world.

Then there’s that Da Vinci the genius guy thing, and anagrams, puzzles, riddles, and number puzzles. There’s the guy-that-helps-you-who-turns-out-to-be-a-bad-guy. You know, that stunning plot reversal you never saw coming.

But … there’s the writing. Consider, for example, “A voice spoke, chillingly close. “Do not move.'” Pro tip, Dan. Voices don’t speak. People speak.

Or, “On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.” Also, if you’re frozen, you’re NOT MOVING. I know, details. They’re pesky.

Or, “Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.”

If I can wear the picky pants a minute longer, a silhouette is a solid form, like a shadow, so our dying frozen curator would be unable to see the skin, hair, irises or pupils.

I knew his prose would be hammy on the way in, but still. All three of those examples are from the prologue.

Speaking of also and still, after Saunière has been shot (oops, spoiler! sorry!), he leaves himself to die after graffiting himself until he’s chock full o’ clues. But how can he be sure that his granddaughter, police officer Sophie Neveu, will get magically summoned to the crime scene just because he leaves a little number code jibber-jabber? Yeah yeah, suspension of disbelief. My bad.

And that whole Teabing guy? You know, the art curator? Making him rich, fine. If you’re going to spend half the night dumping religious history on your readers, best to do it in the sumptuous lap of luxury. But making him have 24/7 access to his own private plane? AND pilot?

Ironically, my favorite part of the book was that info dump, though that says more about my tastes as a reader than anything else. Alas, the book falls apart there, too, since the Priory of Sion was apparently a hoax created by a man later convicted of fraud.

Still, this is a step up from his earlier work, like Angels & Demons, where the Illuminat were trying to destroy Vatican City with antimatter (no, really), and unfortunate readers had to contend with characters named Vittoria Vetra and Gunther Glick … and “Hassassin.” (I’ll give you only one guess what he did for a living.)

So, who knows. Maybe Brown will learn from his reviews and eventually become a successful novelist.

Oh, wait.

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I Write Like … Well, Lots of People

My writer friends all atwitter about I Write Like, a “statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them to those of the famous writers.”

People who get results that they write like James Joyce, or Chuck Palahniuk? Excellent! People who write like Dan Brown? Bummer. (Unless they cash his checks, I wager.)

Anyhow, we’ve all been giving it a whirl. I put in the first page of the last book I wrote, and got Margaret Atwood. Excellent! Poet, novelist, winner of the Booker Prize — and even Canadian. Not too shabby, eh?

But then I had to check. Does Margaret Atwood write like Margaret Atwood? I copied a bit of The Blind Assassin into the text box, and … yes. OK, good. (And Dan Brown writes like Dan Brown, in case you were wondering.)

I stress-tested a little more. A friend who got the Dan Brown Bummer Result said “at least it wasn’t Edward Bulwer-Lytton” (he of “dark and stormy night” infamy, as well as having a famous bad-writing contest named after him). So who does Edward Bulwer-Lytton write like? Charles Dickens.

Obviously it’s not perfect, and not every writer with a famous style is represented. For example, Hemingway’s so distinctive that for years there’s been a “Bad Hemingway Contest.” Yet when I put in a page of “The Old Man and the Sea,” I got James Joyce.

But it’s still fun to play with. A thriller writer I know writes like Ian Fleming, a crime writer I know writes like Nabokov, and a romance writer I know writes like Bram Stoker (huh?)

What’s also cool is that the same writer can get different results. I wrote a satirical short story that came back as James Joyce, not Atwood.

And the text of this blog post? H.P. Lovecraft.

Go figure.